Sunday, October 01, 2006

Houston Police department changes its "sanctuary" somewhat.

Crime: Unfortunately it took the death of a cop by an illegal alien to get something changed.

Under fire in recent months over its policy toward illegal immigrants, the Houston Police Department is unveiling new procedures today to allow more cooperation with federal agents trying to catch criminals living in the country illegally. Officers still will not inquire about the immigration status of people they haven't arrested, so the changes are unlikely to quiet critics who have labeled Houston a "sanctuary city" for illegal immigrants. But the department is making several key revisions. An announcement is expected today, less than two weeks after the shooting death of police officer Rodney Johnson caused simmering opposition to the department policy to flare anew. An illegal immigrant who previously had been deported is charged in the slaying. Among the changes to take effect this week: •The department will hold people detained or arrested for traffic violations or other minor crimes — Class C misdemeanors — if warrant checks show they are wanted by federal agents for defying an order to leave the country or for returning after being deported in connection with a criminal case. Under existing policy, police generally did not hold such people for federal authorities, even if officers were aware of the federal warrants. •The department will allow immigration agents unfettered access to the city's two jails, as they have had in the Harris County jail, and officers will start asking all arrestees whether they are citizens. •Fingerprints of anyone booked into the jails without proper identification will be checked against a national fingerprint database. That could help officers identify wanted criminals, including people wanted for serious immigration violations, police say. "There's a pretty solid process now between HPD and the federal authorities to identify and act on people who've been deported from this country because of their criminal behavior," said Executive Assistant Chief Timothy Oettmeier, among a group of police commanders who briefed the Houston Chronicle on the changes. "We're now in a position to detect and get them back out of here." .....Under the new policy, police would hold for federal authorities a suspect such as Galvan if it's discovered the suspect is wanted on an immigration warrant. Bob Rutt, special agent in charge of the Houston office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said his agents will take those suspects from police custody within 12 hours. "This is very big," he said. "It shows the commitment by HPD to public safety and homeland security."

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